Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Death is Beautiful

I know what you're thinking: why would anyone call death beautiful? Who could? Let me tell you why, from my perspective, the process of death actually does have some endearing aspects.
You see, I am an oncology nurse. And, yes, I picked to work in this field. And truth be told, I love it. Sure, there are a fair amount of naysayers. It’s not rare for me to hear the question, "Why would you ever want to watch people die?" But it just goes in one ear and out the other. We nurses get to know these patients through their first diagnosis, to remission, to relapsing, to cures, to death, to life, and to everything in between. They become like family to us. They become my dad, my grandpa, my mom, brother, sister, aunt, or uncle; whatever the case, each patient holds a place in my heart.
I write this tonight after a 12-hour shift at the hospital. I'm not going to lie, it wasn't easy to get up this morning before the sun was even shining.  Getting off after the sun goes down doesn’t make it any easier. Sometimes, I do feel burnt out. And, sometimes I feel like these patients, our family, are what carry us through our days and keep us coming back.
Back to my title...Death is Beautiful. While most of my days are not filled with death looming, today was. As I said earlier, we get to know our patients, they become like family, and it feels like we've lost a family member when they pass. But, something about the whole process, when taken in the right perspective, can be downright uplifting.
It's beautiful when a family gathers for a loved one. It's beautiful when the love for a loved one is palpable in a room full of family members and friends. It’s a testament to the better part of the human spirit to see a group of people coming together in a time of need. It is beautiful to watch a daughter hold her father's hand in his last moments and tell him she loves him. It's beautiful to hear a wife, whose husband is actively dying, say tenderly, "just keep him comfortable," knowing the final outcome is inevitable. The tears are beautiful. The basic, raw emotions that make us who we are, yet are sparingly put on display, are beautiful. It is so beautiful to see so much love.
But, why are these actions so beautiful? Why in these actions do I somehow find comfort? In my humble opinion, I find comfort in them because all we have is each other.  Each other is what gets us through most days, and it’s each other who shows up at the end of one’s life to show our love and respect. It’s bittersweet, obviously, but seeing a person or a family come to grips with our shared final destination is a privilege for me. It’s not easy to let people in—it can be awkward, painful, and scary. I get to be a part of one of the most intimate family moments.  I get to see the universal yearning for unity and solace amidst chaos and despair.  And, in all of the chaos and despair—there is peace and comfort there, too. It’s in the squeeze of a hand, the tear rolling down a cheek, and the hugs you get from strangers.
I finish this day not with a happy feeling, but with a most grateful feeling for life. A feeling that makes it okay, because there is so much love to be shared.  And, that's something I can live with.


  1. This is so well put, Molls. So true. So often someone asks me "Why do you want to watch people die every day? That must be so depressing". This is the answer. I just wish everyone could see it.

  2. Beautifully written and expressed....just like you. THIS is why you are such an amazing person, friend, and nurse.
    I'm going to LOVE reading your blogs...